The Dunes of Guadalupe NP

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March 2021
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A memorable and surprising shooting session in a remote part of Guadalupe National Park was followed by a disturbing walk back to my truck in the dark. Although I am generally okay with not knowing exactly where I am, I always innately know my destination without the use of GPS. The location in this case was my truck in a vast west Texas desert at nightfall, which was way out of my comfort zone. Being off by merely 50 feet could have made the difference of getting back to it… or not.

My destination seemed preordained now, but I was tired after a long hike with my wife, and I set out knowing I would be walking back through dusk and darkness. As often happens, the anticipated “short” drive turned into sixty minutes, already delaying the time I told Margaret I would be back at camp. But by now, I would have to follow my senses to get a capture I knew I would never return to because of its unlikely location in southeast Texas. Locating the little-used trailhead, I swung on my camera pack and carried my heavy tripod in my arms. The destination was much farther than I imagined, too far for a big tripod. After an hour or so, I found the dunes and walked directly to my location without hesitating. Some of my best captures are made like this. I checked out the surrounding area a bit, but my intuition led me to the precise spot. There were two photographs here, and decided I had time for both. Clouds magically appeared just at sunset, and I was able to make several captures of the Guadalupe Mountains and the Salt Basin at dusk. The first two were the best. I have always told my students that in a once-in-lifetime situation, capture all the possible images and make your final call back at your computer. I followed my advice here!

I was getting uncomfortable being out so late and not having a sure way back to my truck. What I really needed along with me was my son, Dylan, because of his uncanny built-in GPS! Anticipating finishing late, I had packed up all my gear before I even started shooting so that I could use every second to attempt to follow a barely recognizable beaten-in animal trail through the desert landscape in the dark! Although I had forgotten my headlamp, I also knew it would have been useless to see only a few feet ahead in this vastness. And so, on this near moonless evening, I managed to feel my way along a good enough path that eventually led me back to my truck. A perfect day…